WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three of the nation’s leading hospital systems on Thursday announced a plan to combat the growing epidemic of medical errors in hospitals by developing the first comprehensive approach to patient safety. The Safest Hospital Alliance, comprised of Wellmont Health System, Adventist Health System and Novant Health, will tackle an issue that the Institute of Medicine rates as the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States, higher than motor-vehicle crashes, breast cancer or AIDS.
An estimated 98,000 hospital deaths occur annually from medical errors. These mistakes carry with them approximately $37.6 billion in additional charges, including $17 billion associated with preventable errors. While there have been many piecemeal approaches to patient safety, a total solution has remained elusive, in part due to the lack of standardized benchmarks for comparing the performance of healthcare professionals.
By creating metrics and identifying best practices, the alliance’s Safest Hospital Initiative will seek to specifically define how a truly “safe” hospital should function and provide treatment to its patients.
“The healthcare industry has been waiting for a perfect system,” said Dr. Richard Salluzzo, president and chief executive officer of Wellmont Health System and founder of the Safest Hospital Alliance. “We can no longer wait. We’re not doing this because we’ve been forced to by government-mandated changes in the healthcare industry. We’re doing it because it’s right.”
Dramatic improvements may be evident within a year, but over a two-year period, the alliance will focus on one to three core processes that cut across the hospital organization, seeking to close the gap between current performance and perfection by 80 percent. There is also significant financial benefit to improved patient safety. Preliminary estimates suggest that implementing the safest hospital template could reduce healthcare costs by 20 to 30 percent.
Dr. Salluzzo, a double-board-certified physician, said the alliance hospitals expect to become a resource for other healthcare systems and will share program templates, initiate consulting services and offer training programs. The alliance, whose members serve approximately 1.5 percent of all patients in the United States, has also assembled a blue-ribbon advisory panel comprised of safety and quality experts such as Dr. Kenneth Kizer and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.
The Safest Hospital Alliance also has the backing of the nation’s leading hospital quality organization, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
The actual development of the safest hospital benchmarks and templates will be driven by the chief medical officers of the alliance’s three member health systems: Dr. Anthony Oliva, Wellmont; Dr. Ron Jimenez, Adventist; and Dr. Stephen Wallenhaupt, Novant.
Alliance members understand the goal of being recognized as America’s safest hospitals is a significant undertaking, and the journey will be as important as the final outcome.
“We are determined to do nothing less than achieve complete safety and the delivery of ideal care in all of our hospitals,” Dr. Salluzzo said.
Safest Hospital Alliance
The Safest Hospital Alliance is the healthcare industry’s first initiative to develop a total solution to hospital patients’ safety. The alliance is comprised of three of the country’s leading health systems – Wellmont Health System, Adventist Health System and Novant Health.
Dr. Richard Salluzzo, president and CEO of the Wellmont system, is the founder of the Safest Hospital Alliance.
Wellmont Health System
Wellmont Health System is the premier provider of healthcare services for Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Southeast Kentucky. Comprised of 12 owned and affiliated hospitals, the Wellmont system includes Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Tenn., Takoma Regional Hospital in Greeneville, Tenn., Hawkins County Memorial Hospital in Rogersville, Tenn., Hancock County Hospital in Sneedville, Tenn., the Holston Valley Regional Children’s Hospital and Center in Kingsport, Tenn., Jenkins Community Hospital in Jenkins, Ky., Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, Va., Wellmont Ridgeview in Bristol, Va., as well as partnerships with Select Specialty Hospital in Bristol, Tenn., and HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Kingsport, Tenn., and Bristol, Va.
The Wellmont system includes more than 1,100 licensed beds and employs more than 5,000 dedicated professionals. Nearly 1,000 physicians practice at Wellmont hospitals, delivering unsurpassed medical care to thousands of residents each year. Wellmont hospitals have been recognized as Top 100 performers in heart care, intensive care and performance improvement, and the health system operates two trauma centers and a neonatal intensive care unit.
Adventist Health System
Adventist Health System was founded in 1973 to support and strengthen Seventh-Day Adventist healthcare organizations in the southern and southwestern regions of the United States. It quickly became the largest not-for-profit Protestant healthcare provider in the nation.
Today, Adventist Health System includes 36 hospitals totaling more than 6,000 licensed beds, providing care for nearly four million patients each year in inpatient, outpatient and emergency room visits and employing almost 43,000 members of their communities in full and part-time positions.
Adventist Health System’s flagship, Florida Hospital, is one of the largest healthcare providers in America and a national leader in cardiac care. Established in 1980, Florida Hospital now provides more than1,800 beds on seven campuses and is recognized for the quality of its cancer care, neurosciences, orthopedics, kidney disease, limb replantation, sports medicine, rehabilitation and women’s medicine programs.
Novant Health consists of 202 physician clinics and eight hospitals in North Carolina’s Charlotte, Triad and southeastern regions: Presbyterian Hospital, Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville and Presbyterian Hospital Matthews of the Charlotte area; Forsyth Medical Center, Medical Park Hospital and Thomasville Medical Center in the Triad region; and Brunswick Community Hospital along the coast. Other facilities and programs of Novant Health include two nursing homes, outpatient surgery and diagnostic centers, rehabilitation programs and community health outreach services. Novant Health is ranked seventh nationally among the Top 100 Integrated Healthcare Networks in 2007, an analysis conducted by the national Verispan health informatics company.